Wednesday, June 21, 2017

JazzerCycle Roadshow hits Kyrgyzstan

Moving right along from Albania via Turkey, we landed in Kyrgyzstan, joining a couple from Australia and 6 others from the arts team in Istanbul for 2 weeks of outreach. This was our 5th time ministering in Kyrgyzstan but first time in the southern, more unreached Osh region where people are more devout. Laws are strict preventing anyone from sharing their faith in a public setting.

From June 8-18 our team of 10 presented our JazzerCycle Roadshow to 2,470 people in 12 events. With Jazz music, unicycling, dance and drama we creatively shared a message of hope and encouragement to our audiences. Usually we could not talk about God from the stage but we were able to share openly one on one and pray with people.

Three of our shows were in the Jalal-Abad region. For each of these shows we jostled along potholed roads for 6 to 8 nauseating hours round-trip from Osh. We presented in 2 city squares 3 times and invited people to a follow-up meeting after the third show.

After our first show, the pastor and church members were gushing with excitement. They were so thankful the city could see "Christians presenting such a wonderful, beautiful, professional show". They sensed Dustin's sharing was from his heart and saw girls crying, overcome with emotion as Katie danced. Though we were very restricted in what we could share, the pastor's friend who's been in prison 7 times and was recently released gave his life to Jesus that night!

After our third show in Jalal-Abad, a guy came up to Katie saying, "You have a positive in your life. Pray for me to have that positive, too." Then a lady asked, "Is there a reason you do these shows?" Through these conversations we were able to share about the Hope that we have in Jesus.

From Osh, we drove through the village of Communism to get to Uch-Korgon for a special show at an orphanage. Dustin shared with the kids that God is a Father who loves them and will never leave them.

Then we had 3 shows for students. Two of them were 5 blocks from Uzbekistan in a village called VLKSM (stands for All-Union Leninist Young Communist League).

Unfortunately, one of our audiences was 200 preschoolers who came crying, cried throughout our show, then left crying. They didn't understand why their breakfast was interrupted to come out and sit in the hot sun for an hour. It was a new, almost comical experience for us to hear their dull wailing fill the school courtyard. All was not in vain however, since hundreds of mothers also came and listened intently to the message.

After each of the schools shows, our local partners handed out Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes to the kids.

A local English club ministry invited us to join their informal cafe meeting 3 afternoons where we had the opportunity to share testimonies and the Gospel with students.

To wrap things up, we did a show in a church where we could share openly. This was a last minute event so wasn't very well attended but thankfully at least 10 non-believers came and heard the Gospel as Dustin shared then led in a prayer of surrender to Jesus. We were also able to encourage and pray with many new believers.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Albania WhAM! Tour 2017

We called ourselves the WhAM! Tour because we had Wheels, Aerial acts and Music (punctuated with dance!).  From 18-30 May 2017, our TACO (Turkey AfriAsia Creative Outreach) group of 9 from Korea, Canada, Australia and America traveled around Albania performing and sharing the Good News.

Though Albania was declared 100% atheist in 1967, it is now wide open with freedom of religion. God is on the move in Albania and His church is growing. Since Albania is not new territory for TACO, each time we return we see young churches maturing which we've helped start. They are now planting others and there is always new vision for more. It is a privilege to partner in this endeavor. We again worked with an Albanian pastor and church planter who is well connected across the country.

In the city of Kavajë we presented for TACO's 3rd time. Past audiences have been resistant or apathetic. Believers have been working in this city for a few years and were finally ready to launch a church. Our presentation helped promote and announce the first service a few days later. We learned that 15 people came to the first meeting and are now involved in a discipleship program.

In Maliq the local pastor was surprised to see how well our team cooperated with each other, being from different nations. He thought the testimonies were great, appreciated how we really connected with the people and was glad the city could see good Christian art. Apparently they are already asking when we'll be back. Others thanked us for coming saying no one ever comes to Albania to perform these things.

The band sang a song in Albanian. It was a crowd favorite, resulting in the audience clapping and bursting into traditional dances as they sang along.

Joel wowed the crowds with his aerial acts and would always receive gasps and applause when he included in his testimony that he is almost 58 years old.

People liked David's dancing so much they asked for lessons after the show. 

Whenever Dustin would return to the stage with his unicycles, cheers would erupt from his many fans.

In each show Dustin gave a clear Gospel presentation and led in a prayer of surrender to Jesus.

We performed 9 shows this tour for over 3,000 people and saw at least 245 indicate they were surrendering their lives to Jesus for the first time. We were thankful that only one show was cancelled due to rain. Several other times rain stopped just before or started when we were nearly done performing.

Please pray for:
- The new church in Kavajë to grow and thrive.
- Churches we partnered with across Albania as they follow-up with interested people.
- The church in Maliq who is building a new ministry complex to care for street kids.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Rolling in the Footsteps of Barnabas and Paul

UniShow North Cyprus team.
From 1-13 May 2017, we joined 8 other artists for our first tour in the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus. Together we were the UniShow - a unified variety show of music, dance and unicycling with one purpose: sharing the Good News creatively!

Cyprus is rich with Biblical history. It is first mentioned in the New Testament (Acts 4:36) as the native place of Barnabas (his grave is now a historical site in North Cyprus). Then Acts 11:20 says men from Cyprus went to Antioch to preach the Lord Jesus to the Greeks.

Though Cyprus was divided and the North became known as the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus, it is still only recognized as a country by Turkey. Generally, Turks live in the north and Greeks in the south with the United Nations controlling the border. Most of the population in the north is now from mainland Turkey. It had a different feel of relaxed island life, not to mention we had to get used to driving on the left side of the road with the steering wheel on the car's right.

View from our accommodations.
We did 7 shows for over 2,100 people across the small country. Our 3 outdoor community events were advertised and organized by different cities who each time provided a stage, audience seating and dinner for us. During one of these events, the mayor got very upset because he heard us beginning to share a message about God. Because of this, a scheduled show in a nearby city was cancelled, unfortunately. The other 2 mayors were very positive about our performance and message, asking us to come back anytime. One even presented us with certificates of thanks for coming. 

It was fun to perform in the nice, new City Mall. The mall organizer also was a little apprehensive about our message, but in the end was very pleased and invited us back. A positive article about our show even appeared in the local newspaper. 

 Our other 3 shows were part of University Festivals: 2 Spring Fests and 1 International Night. These were hectic events, working with big stages, “professional” sound and light crews, being bumped around the schedule, even dealing with sabotage attempts to prevent us from presenting. Yet again, after each performance, events managers were surprised and very happy with our show, some even inviting us back for better time slots in the future. 

We had many meaningful conversations and prayers with people after shows, especially at the universities. Many people filled out surveys, requesting more information about what we shared and received New Testaments and More Than Dreams DVD’s in return. Dustin’s cards with his testimony and Gospel on them were handed out by the hundreds. 

This tour was a learning experience for us all, including our local organizer who said it was a great “Re-confrontation with the authorities and re-establishment of our rights of freedom of speech. The laws are in place on paper that there is freedom to preach and share publicly in North Cyprus, but this tour re-confirmed it in our and their eyes.”